Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, accounting for nearly 50 percent of all diagnosed cases. One in five Americans will get skin cancer during their lifetime. According to the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, more than 1,000,000 cases will be diagnosed in the next year. Non-melanoma skin cancers, most commonly basal and squamous cell carcinomas, account for most of these cancers.

The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. While melanoma is not the most common, it is the most deadly. More than 68,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma this year, and more than 8,000 will likely die. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults between the ages of 25 and 29, and is the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults between 15 and 29 years old. Unfortunately, the number of cases of melanoma is on the rise. Many people do not realize that something on the skin, seemingly harmless with no symptoms, can be deadly. At Vitalogy, we continually remind our patients to be cautious, pay attention to their skin and schedule a skin check-up once a year. Because it accounts for the best prognosis for patients, our team’s focus is on early detection and treatment.

What does a melanoma look like?
In order to find a melanoma, you need to look at your skin for any lumps, bumps or moles. The ABCD’s of melanoma detection may help you sort out a normal mole from an atypical mole or melanoma. Melanomas can develop from a normal area of skin (skin with no moles or prior abnormal coloration) or from an existing mole or freckle.

The ABCD’s:

(A) – Asymmetry: One half is unlike the other half.

(B) – Border: An irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.

(C) – Color: Is varied from one area to another; has shades of tan, brown or black; is sometimes white, red or blue.

(D) – Diameter: While melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser), they can be smaller.

(E) – Evolving: A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest, or is changing in size, shape or color. A mole that is suddenly itchy, inflamed, bleeding or scabby should also be examined.

The ABCD rules do not apply for all melanomas. Some melanomas are perfectly symmetrical and have a light color. So, in addition to the ABCD’s, use the following information to help screen for other suspicious lesions:

Elevated: Look for a new spot that is raised above the skin’s surface.

Firm: Look for spots that are firm to the touch, not flabby.

Growing: Look for spots that are fast growing or continue to grow for more than two to three weeks.

“Ugly Duckling Rule”: This rule is based on the fact that an individual’s moles will tend to look alike. If there is a mole that doesn’t match the others (i.e., the ugly duckling), that mole is more likely to be a melanoma.

One last tip: If you have a “bruise” on the palm of your hand or sole of your foot that does not heal, or if you have an unusual pigment around the nail, these may also be signs of a melanoma.

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